Keri King Studio Visit

Amidst sequential snow storms, unseasonably warm weather, and a wild scramble to install the library’s big annual exhibit, we ventured into the wilds of Providence for a studio visit with our 2017 Creative Fellow Keri King.

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Here you can see Keri seated at her wooden drafting table (it’s a family heirloom!).

You can read our previous blog post about Keri’s research process here. During this visit, she described her collage process, and the new methods she’s trying during her fellowship:

This Creative Fellowship is driving me to explore color and new collage techniques. I’m experimenting with a combination of analogue and digital processes to create my illustrative collage. I’m adjusting imagery [from high-resolution scans of library materials] in Photoshop so that each collage element prints at the desired size, before I physically cut it out… Typically, I work in black and white; I generate collage materials by photocopying source documents – I can get the size I need through repeated photocopying using semi-rational fraction-based math. Afterwards, I edit with whiteout, sharpie, and black ink … This go round I’m manipulating my color palette in Photoshop and I’m popping details in the hard copy with paint. It’s yielding a lot of juicy surprises!

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Once images are cut out, Keri arranges them on a surface using white artist’s tape, which is repositionable, so she can try various layouts. An awesome collage tip from this pro: “I use Sharpie on the cut edge of the paper to avoid flares of white in the finished product. After doing this for a while, I found out that Terry Gilliam used to do this in his cut-out animations for Monty Python!”

Keri’s finished product–an 8 foot x 8 foot, full-color mural, enlarged from the collage she’s working on in these photos–will be on view at the March 1st On the Table launch party. Join us that evening for live music, a food art installation, and the unveiling of our 2017 exhibition!

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Keri King: Collaborative Research, Collage, and Creativity

 

In conjunction with our annual Exhibition & Program Series, PPL offers a Creative Fellowship for a Rhode Island artist who creates new work incorporating imagery from or inspired by the library’s Special Collections. Our 2017 Creative Fellow, Keri King, is a fantastic Providence-based artist who creates collage and illustration-based work. Keri has been researching in Special Collections and in our historical magazine collections for several months; below is the first of two guest blog posts showcasing Keri’s creative process!

In my work, I like to blend drawing and collage. I incorporate a lot of source imagery from magazines, newspaper clippings, vintage posters, and such, into each piece. I enjoy how each cut-out element has its own history and adds to an overall narrative with tonal/ textural results.

Research is an essential part of my work flow! For most projects, my process is as follows:

  1. I sketch.
  2. I draft what I like to call my “grocery list” (figuring out what source images I need) & site “shopping centers” (where I can find those images).
  3. I research (I look, I tab, I get a little off track while exploring, I check things out from the library…)
  4. I play with a xerox machine.
  5. I collage.
  6. And I’m back to drawing, synthesizing the varied materials within a collage into one cohesive image.

My process is slightly different for the Creative Fellowship at the library, where I’m creating an 8 foot x 8 foot mural that will be displayed inside the Empire Street entrance to the library. I’ve proposed a collage illustration of a dinner party, with families from a handful of time periods in America coming around a table to eat.

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One distinction from my usual research process is that I can’t just pull things off the shelves in Special Collections. Instead, I use the library’s “human Google”: I tell Angela, the Curatorial Assistant, what I’m looking for, and she pulls books and magazines from the stacks for me, which I then look at in the Reading Room. (I got a tour of Special Collections at the beginning of my fellowship, so I have some idea of the frankly magical wealth of resources that are available to me.)

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The stuff that Angela finds is always much more than what I bargained for. She thinks of sources I wouldn’t ever have on my radar, and these unexpected shares lead to new, playful connections in my work. My process is energized by our collaborative research.

Since the summer, I’ve looked at all kinds of things, including:

-images of food and characters

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-images of locations that could provide a backdrop

Sunken gardens, Roger Williams Park, Providence, R.I.

I’m leaning towards an alfresco backdrop, and I’ve been focusing on outdoor locations in Rhode Island.

-furniture

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One day I went picnic table shopping.

-advertising from old home magazines

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I’m fascinated with food advertising from the 1940s into the 1950s, much of which is not very appetizing. I particularly love this savory tomato aspic gelatin. I’m exploring the possibility of a savory aspic hostess.

Because Special Collections materials are often fragile, I can’t Xerox them, so I’ve been working with high-resolution scans and photographs. Right now I’m in my collage and drawing phase.

Keri’s mural will be unveiled on March 1st at the opening event for our 2017 Exhibition and Program Series. Stop by any time between then and June 30th to see the final results of Keri’s work. She’ll also be giving an artist’s talk at the library on April 30th–mark your calendars!

Now on Exhibit: Portals art!

While the Portals exhibition (February – June 2016) showcased historical items describing imagined futures, local artists were hard at work researching in Special Collections and creating derivative art, both through programming at the library and in their own studios.

We’re lucky to have our exhibit cases jam-packed with selections of this Portals art, on view at the library now through August 15th!

Left to right: miniature dress and headdress created by teens in RISD CE fashion classes at the library; 18th century French funeral invitation from the Barrois Collection of Funeral Invitations, alongside a candle by Burke & Hare Co.; drafts, color separations, and layout notes from the Special Collections-themed issue of The Providence Sunday Wipeout.

The exhibit includes illustrations, song lyrics, candles, comics, letterpress prints, short stories, headdresses, and clothing designs by Rhode Island artists including Walker Mettling, Mickey Zacchilli, Brian Whitney, Dan Wood, Caitlin Cali, Guy-Maly Pierre, Dailen Williams, Jim Frain, Joe DeGeorge, Veronica Santos, Burke & Hare Co., Jeremy Ferris, Keegan Bonds-Harmon, and many teen fashion designers.

New creative works are displayed alongside the historical items that inspired them, including Maukisch’s Das Jagen, Fangen, Zähmen und Abrichten der Thiere (1837), The Necropolis of Ancón in Peru (circa 1880), design classic The Grammar of Ornament (1856), Academie Universelle des Jeux (1824) (from the Haynes Checkers Collection), Rational Recreations (1794), and other gems from the stacks.

Some of these artists’ original items are available for sale. (The library doesn’t receive any proceeds from these sales, but we are thrilled to support local businesses and Rhode Island artists!) You can purchase Burke & Hare Co’s Horace B. Knowles candle here, or their Repose en Paix candle here. To get a copy of the Special Collections-themed issue of The Providence Sunday Wipeout comics newspaper, visit Ada Books in Providence or contact Special Collections!

Portals Story Event 6/6/16: A History of Future Bummers

2016 Portals Creative Fellow Walker Mettling put together an amazing, Special Collections-themed comics compilation and story night– and you’re invited!

Library Story Night

The event, coming up on Monday, June 6th, will feature stories written and read by local artists Veronica Santos, Caitlin CaliDailen Williams, Jim Frain, Keegan Bonds-Harmon, Jeremy Ferris & Julia Gualtieri. Library friend and neighbor Joe DeGeorge will provide musical interludes. This event will also feature the release of a brand new, Special Collections-themed issue of the Providence Sunday Wipeout, a large-format comics newspaper. Wow!

This not-entirely-literary evening will be hosted by Walker Mettling. See you on June 6th at 6:30 p.m. in the PPL Auditorium!

A Creative Fellow

If you regularly check the library’s facebook page or other social media, you may already know about Special Collections’ 2016 Creative Fellow, the inimitable Walker Mettling. Walker is working with our collections for the duration of Portals, and is using his fellowship as an opportunity to create new illustrated work related to the exhibition’s theme. Stay tuned for details on where and when you can see some of his fantastical creations!

In the meantime, here are photos of Walker reading a comics newspaper that he printed on a risograph, inspired by the large-scale format of 1860s issues of the Providence Journal that he read in PPL’s Special Collections.

 

Fulbright, brighter, brightest

We were very lucky to get a visit last Friday from some exceptional students. They’re part of the Fulbright Foreign Student Program, so they were from countries around the world. One component of their visit to the US is a volunteer session, so 14 of them showed up at PPL, ready to do some volunteer transcription. (Thanks to Justin Dunnavant for the photos.)

Fulbright Students

Our Nicholson Whaling Collection is well known as one of the best collections of whaling logbooks in the country. But the collection also includes quite a few other resources, including nearly 60 boxes of manuscript materials. (They’re described in a collection guide on our website.) So after getting a brief introduction to Special Collections, they set to work transcribing one small portion, the letters of Daniel D. Mowry.

Transcription in processMowry went to sea as an 18-year-old, and it didn’t take long for him to regret the decision. We have letters from Mowry to his parents during the period from 1858 to 1861, at which point he abandoned ship in Auckland, New Zealand. He continued to write home from Auckland and Sydney, Australia for years.

Daniel Mowry letter

The Fulbright student volunteers set out to transcribe the manuscripts and help fill out the story, and in just a few short hours they made quite a bit of progress.

Students transcribing lettersHere’s a short sample (transcribed by Sylmina Alkaff), in which Mowry tells his parents that he’s abandoning the voyage:

Dear Father & Mother
You will no doubt be much surprised when you get this letter to hear that I am no longer in the Sea (Gull). I left the ship about four weeks previous to this date….
My dear Father and Mother I have done a thing which you will at first blame me for. But could you know all could you
but know what I have endured and what I have seen with my own eyes you would blame me not. Her thirty three months I staid in that ship and they were months of misery to me. I took no comfort of my life neither did any of the ships company.

It should be a great story when it’s all told. Within the next few months we’ll plan to have the images online with the transcriptions by the Fulbright students. Since they were working with limited time, many of the letters are not yet fully transcribed, so blog readers can have a chance to put some of the pieces of the story together as well by doing some voluntary, online transcription work of your own.

Thanks again, Fulbright students!

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Special Collections under the microscope

Today’s agenda included a field trip to the RISD Nature Lab, a very cool Providence resource that seems to be essentially a laboratory / natural history museum designed for use by artists. It’s the kind of place with stuffed animal heads on the wall:

or, better yet:

 

I was there to chaperon three natural history books from our collections that were going under the microscope:

 

and closer:

 

The purpose of this biblio-magnification is a forthcoming creation by artist (and Special Collections volunteer) Amanda Thackray. Here’s Amanda at the microscope:

 

And here’s a view of a page under the lens:

Even from this distance it’s possible to see the detail of the paper fibers.

Look for future blog posts once the project is complete.

And here, for no particular reason, is a shot of the skeletons at the Nature Lab:

And a giant snake skin above bookshelves with light boxes (by Amanda, as it turns out):